Minnesota Liberators of Concentration Camps Oral History Project: Interview with Leonard Parker
Part 1


Description BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Leonard Parker was born in Poland while his immigrating parents, grandmother and two-year-old brother, who were Jewish, were en route from Russia to the United States. They arrived in the United States when he was two months old. Parker grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and entered the University of Wisconsin, but then joined the army and was sent to the University of Minnesota for a specialized training program. After nine months the program was folded, and Parker was assigned to the 44th infantry division and shipped overseas. Parker entered Europe in an invasion of southern France and spent fourteen months in combat. His unit was the first to reach the Dachau concentration camp after its abandonment by the Germans three days earlier. After the war Parker enrolled in architecture school at the University of Illinois but then decided to enroll at the University of Minnesota, where he had enjoyed the nine months of the army training program. He later met his wife, Betty, in Minnesota and remained in the state, working as an architect. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Dachau's perimeter features, including stone walls, barbed wire, and metal fences; the discovery of a train full of dead bodies abandoned while being moved to the gas chambers; speaking with prisoners, who were mostly Jewish, with some Polish and Russian non-Jews also included; the inner camp, including permanent-looking wood and stone building and some paved roads; nearby townspeople's denial of knowledge of the camp; medical experimenters who did not abandon the camp with the rest of the Germans because they thought their status as medical staff protected them from harm and blame; the Red Cross's arrival on the evening of the camp's liberation, after which no non-Red Cross personnel were allowed in the camp; a fourteen-year-old boy, the only survivor of a family of eight, who followed Parker's group to all the way to Munich before disappearing; Parker's earlier doubt regarding the war's purpose, and his change after seeing Dachau to believing that the war was "absolutely useful and necessary;" his visit after the war to North Branch, Minnesota, the former home of his foxhole partner, John Larson, who was killed by an explosive shell while lying next to Parker in the foxhole; catching SS officers in the last weeks of the war; two persistent memories, of singing in Yiddish to survivors and of seeing the furnaces that were used to burn bodies; inability to understand how so many Germans could have participated in the Holocaust instead of refusing to do so.
Quantity 1.5 hours sound cassette
7 pages transcript
Format Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
Measurements 00:28:51 running time
Creation Interviewee: Parker, Leonard
Interviewer: Lewin, Rhoda Greene
Made in Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, United States
Subjects Made in Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, United States
Dates Creation: 03/20/1987
Holding Type Oral History - Interview
Identifiers OH 52.12
Accession Number AV1996.48.12
More Info MHS Library Catalog
Related Collections Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Minnesota Liberators of Concentration Camps Oral History Project'

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